Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hideous Rodent May Provide Cure For Cancer

Hideous Rodent May Provide Cure For Cancer

The naked mole rat is immune to cancer. At last, scientists have figured out why.

Naked mole rats are unique in many ways. For one, they're the only mammals with a hive mind, obeying their queen as if they were ants. Also, they feel no pain, an adaptation still not fully understood. But most importantly for us, they are the only animals that don't get cancer.

And now, a new study by scientists at the University of Rochester, New York, explains at last why these horrific animals, of all of the world's creatures, are immune to cancer.

According to the scientists, the mole rat's cells express a gene that tells cells to stop dividing. The gene, called p16, forms a second ring of defense against cancer. Most mammals, including humans, only have one gene, p27, protecting cells from cancer. And while most cancers know a way around p27, p16 stops them cold.

In the experiment, researchers gave cancer to a mole rat cell. However, unlike similarly altered mouse cells, the cancerous mole rat cell didn't engage in the non-stop proliferation associated with cancer.

Naked mole rats were already known for their extreme longevity, living much longer than other similarly sized rodents. This was thought to result from their ability to massively slow down their metabolism during times of privation, but this immunity to cancer almost certainly also contributes to their long lifespans.

Some other mole rat facts: their lips are behind their front teeth, they breathe mostly through their skin, and acid doesn't really burn them. I don't know what planet these things are from, but if they're helping cure cancer, I'm glad they're here.

More evidence for the increasing YECiness of ID

This bit from The Panda's Thumb.
Since their loss in Kitzmiller v. Dover, it seems creationists have not been under as much pressure to hide their reasons for doing battle with evolution. As a result, they seem to be slipping back toward their old Young Earth Creationist ways.

More evidence for the increasing
YECiness of ID

by Nick Matzke on 10/29/09

Just last week over at the Thinking Christian blog there was a huge stink raised over the alleged inappropriateness of linking ID to creationism. After much argument the anti-linkage people more or less conceded that there were some good reasons to link ID to a somewhat generic definition of creationism (relying on special creation), but still protested loudly about how inappropriate it was to make the linkage, because most people (allegedly) would assume that creationism = young-earth creationism, and linking ID to young-earth creationism was oh-so-wildly unfair.

Well, it's now a week later, and, what do you know, but right there on the latest blogpost on William Dembski's Uncommon Descent is a big fat advertisement for a straight-up young-earth creationist conference. And who is endorsing the conference? Dean Kenyon, Discovery Institute fellow, coauthor of Of Pandas and People, and one of the most-cited inspirational figures in the whole ID movement, who is mentioned dozens of times in Stephen Meyer's new book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design . Here he is, endorsing young-earth garbage:

According to US biophysicist Dr. Dean Kenyon, "Biological macroevolution collapses without the twin pillars of the geological time-scale and the fossil record as currently interpreted. Few scientists would contest this statement. This is why the upcoming conference concentrates on geology and paleontology. Recent research in these two disciplines adds powerful support to the already formidable case against teaching Darwinian macroevolution as if it were proven fact."

...proving that, yep, he's still YEC, as has been his consistent position since at least 1980, even though this was widely doubted over on the Thinking Christian blog, and even though Stephen Meyer and all other ID advocates systematically obscure this fact.

So who is the one confusing ID and YEC? Not me. They do it themselves.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I saw some snide comments on Facebook about how the military is "finally" getting around to issuing desert camoflage Strykers in Afghanistan. It's interesting to read the take from someone who's been there.


A military watchdog gets it wrong on the debate over camouflage.
By Michael Yon

Some things are not as they seem. Many people, for instance, seem to think Stars & Stripes is a military lapdog, but this is untrue. If Washington had a yearbook, Stars & Stripes might be voted "most apt to slam the military." Stars & Stripes is a watchdog.

Drew Brown is a Stars & Stripes writer with much battlefield experience. Drew's stories on Iraq have always rung true, as have his stories on Afghanistan. However, his recent story from Afghanistan about Stryker camouflage left room for respectful disagreement, or perhaps a "context adjustment." One might suspect that the editorial process changed the tone.

The story begins:

Army to phase in tan-colored Stryker vehicles
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, October 26 2009

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan — More than six years after sending the first Stryker armored vehicles into desert combat, the Army has decided that it's probably a good idea to start painting them tan so they will blend in with the environments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The tone here is off, depicting the situation without the context or dimension that it deserves.

Long-time readers are aware that I do not hesitate to bite the Army when the watchdog hat is on. Given my frequency in combat with our folks, any lack of gear, or poor gear, is as bad for my health as for the troops'. Hence I have been yelling at Washington that we need more troops in Afghanistan, and more helicopters.

However, controversy should only grow in fertile ground. And having spent more time in combat with U.S. forces than any writer/journalist/photographer during the Iraq War — something likely to be duplicated in Afghanistan — my observation is that the U.S. military, on the whole, is incredibly well resourced. I have probably spent more time with Stryker units than any journalist living or dead, and the fact is that while it may now be the case that Strykers should be painted brown, there are good reasons this wasn't done earlier.

The story is datelined to Zabul Province, Afghanistan, and true enough, the color out there should be desert brown. (Or perhaps, in some places at some times, white.) But elsewhere in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, civilians mostly live near water, so colors around their homes generally are green during the green months. In Afghanistan, the "Green Zone" (GZ) is the area around the rivers and lakes, and much or possibly most of the fighting occurs in these green areas. The enemy fights more when the GZ is green than during the winter brown.

Just as important, predicting camouflage needs for Strykers can be incredibly difficult. Stryker units tend to get moved around more than other combat units because Stryker units can project so much force quickly. Afghanistan's geography doesn't help: Down in the Helmand River valley where Brits, Danes, Yanks, and others are fighting, you can go from strict GZ to 100 percent desert-brown conditions in just a few seconds. The border between verdant and seemingly endless cardboard brown is usually only the width of an unpaved road — literally, a line in the sand and rocks. One side of the road can be dry as bone, while just meters away on the other side of the road, the mud tries to suck the boots off your feet. (The Brits have the opposite problem; they have very good desert-brown camouflage, but do most of their fighting in the GZ.)

Also, even if brown is a better overall camouflage for Afghanistan — though this is unclear even to many experienced soldiers and me — it is unfair to imply (by datelining the story to Zabul Province and referring to more than six years of Strykers in desert combat) that the Army has had Strykers there during the entire war. The first rotation of Strykers to Afghanistan arrived only some months ago; before that, they were in use only in Iraq.

In Iraq, Generals Casey and Petraeus wisely used Strykers as their "QRF" (Quick Reaction Force) during the severe fighting of 2006–2007. Stryker soldiers fought all over the place. They moved constantly. The brigade commander would have needed ESP and the vehicles chameleon skin to keep up with the changing environments.

Drew and I both covered Operation Arrowhead Ripper with Stryker units during the scorching summer of 2007. We spent far more time in the cities than in the desert. Some Stryker soldiers might have had different experiences, depending where they fought.

Also, Stars & Stripes's insinuation that U.S. military leaders would leave our troops without appropriate materiel does not square with those leaders' recent performances. I am confident that if commanders were screeching about getting those Strykers painted, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would get it done, and bets are on that the next rotation will be brown if that is what commanders want. General Petraeus, meanwhile, is the boss of CENTCOM, where all Strykers in combat are operating. In Iraq, it was common to see General Petraeus on the battlefields, and he rode in a Stryker on at least one occasion during Operation Arrowhead Ripper. I saw him there. And though I don't know Gen. Stanley McChrystal, he has a solid reputation. He wasn't shy about asking for more troops, so it's hard to imagine he would hesitate about getting some buckets of paint.

Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey Mellinger, an ex-Ranger like McChrystal, is the senior NCO at Army Materiel Command. AMC oversees all Army materiel ranging from bandages, night vision, and weapons to tanks and helicopters. CSM Mellinger has seen a lot of combat, and I have done countless missions with him in Iraq, including missions in Strykers. Never once during that time did I think that Strykers should be brown, and if CSM Mellinger thought they should have been brown, he would surely have told his successive bosses, Generals Casey and Petraeus. CSM Mellinger still regularly travels to Iraq and Afghanistan and would not hesitate to recommend a change if soldiers on the ground were asking for it.

CSM Mellinger knows more about Army gear than anybody I know, and he's my number-one source for advice on what to wear during fighting. When I asked Mellinger about camouflage, he said that "what works today won't work tomorrow," and that "there is no perfect camouflage."

The CSM for the Strykers now in Afghanistan is Robb Prosser. I've done probably 100 combat missions with Robb in Strykers in Iraq, and now he is the senior NCO for those Strykers in Afghanistan. Never once did I hear Robb say that Strykers needed to be brown.

The Strykers currently in Afghanistan probably should be painted brown, but it is not true that the military dragged through these years without noticing, or that Gates, Petraeus, McChrystal, Mellinger, and Prosser didn't ask for something they needed. Stars & Stripes plays a valuable role as a military watchdog, but this time, they're barking up the wrong tree.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Way News - FACT CHECK: Health insurer profits not so fat

How badly are insurance companies ripping people off? My Way News - FACT CHECK: Health insurer profits not so fat

Ledgers tell a different reality. Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.

Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.

The inevitable Medicare cuts

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: The inevitable Medicare cuts

The Democrats would have us believe that they can cut $500 billion from Medicare spending over the next 10 years without anyone getting less of anything. They are going to save that money, the president says, by eliminating "fraud, waste, and abuse." Undoubtedly that would be the same fraud, waste and abuse that presidents have been eliminating since at least, say, Ronald Reagan.

But, contrary to the president's rhetoric, the bills that Congress is currently debating do cut Medicare.

For example, roughly 10.2 million seniors currently receive their health care through the Medicare Advantage program. That program offers many seniors benefits not included in traditional Medicare, including preventive-care services, coordinated care for chronic conditions, routine physical examinations, additional hospitalization, skilled nursing facility stays, routine eye and hearing examinations, and glasses and hearing aids. The bills currently making their way through Congress would cut payments to Medicare Advantage plans by $100 billion to $150 billion. In response, many insurers are expected to stop participating in the program, while others will probably increase the premiums they charge seniors. Millions of seniors will likely be forced off their current plans and back into traditional Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office makes it clear that, at the very least, the cuts "would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries through Medicare Advantage plans."

The Democratic cuts also hit traditional Medicare. For example, the bills would reduce reimbursements for diagnostic imaging -- things like CT scans, MRIs and X-rays -- by as much as 25 percent. And the Senate Finance Committee's bill would penalize doctors who perform too many procedures or tests. Providers whose utilization is in the 90th percentile or above, compared to national averages, will have their Medicare reimbursements cut. The whole point of such provisions is to reduce services.

William McGurn: What Singapore Can Teach the White House -

William McGurn looks at an example of a free market health care system in action: What Singapore Can Teach the White House

In Singapore, by contrast, they already have universal coverage. They also have world-class quality care at world-competitive prices. And in a week when White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is meeting behind closed doors with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Singapore's example might have something to teach them about the kind of reform Americans really need.

"When I'm asked to describe the differences between the U.S. and Singapore systems, my one-word answer is 'complexity,'" says Dr. Jason Yap, director of marketing for Raffles Hospital, a leading private care facility in downtown Singapore. "There are so many parties in the American system that do not really contribute to care."

Dr. Yap is referring to the higher costs that come from an American system that depends on regulation and oversight to accomplish what Singapore tries to do with competition and choice. At the Raffles lounge for international patients, he shows me an example of the latter. It's a one-page, easy-to-read list of fees.

At the high end of accommodation, a patient can choose the Raffles/Victory suite for about $1,438 per night. That price includes a 24-hour private nurse, a refrigerator stocked with drinks, and an adjoining living room to entertain. At the other end of the scale, a bed in a six-person room goes for just $99.

As Dr. Yap points out, the actual care is the same whether a patient decides to stay in a deluxe suite or a dormitory-style room. But the choice is the patient's; the financial incentives encourage the patient to think about those choices; and the low-priced options help keep the overall costs down.
As any American who has ever tried to make sense of a hospital bill or haggled with his insurance company over a payment can tell you, even for those who have decent coverage our system can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Singapore's system isn't perfect. It does suggest, however, that the Average Joe stands more to gain from a system where hospitals and doctors compete for patients, where patients have different price options for their hospital stays and appointments, and where they pay for some of it out of pocket.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We're all sex criminals now

Clayton Cramer hopes this report is dropping major amounts of context from the paper it summarizes.

( A research paper that won a Hebrew University teachers' committee prize finds that the lack of IDF rapes of Palestinian women is designed to serve a political purpose.

The abstract of the paper, authored by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, notes that the paper shows that "the lack of organized military rape is an alternate way of realizing [particular] political goals."

The next sentence delineates the particular goals that are realized in this manner: "In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences - just as organized military rape would have done."

The paper further theorizes that Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers' eyes.

Yes, a lack of rape is because those Israeli soldiers hold Arab women in such utter contempt. But if there was a lot of rape going on--that would also be a sign that Israeli soldiers hold Arab women in contempt. This sounds like one of those papers that started with the result--Israeli soldiers have dehumanized Arabs--and then looked for a way to twist the data to match that result.
Yes, imagine the poor dears watching IDF soldiers going past, and saying to themselves, "What are we, chopped liver?"  (BTW, can anyone explain what's so bad about chopped liver?) 
Yet I imagine the terror that could be wreaked upon the menfolk of this country if this theory were to make its way into law enforcement and the courts.  Every man in the country could be sued by any woman for sexual harassment and "creating a hostile work environment" because he hasn't raped her. 
Would being gay be a defense?  Maybe against that particular charge.  Men would start wearing rainbow pendants "pride" t-shirts in self-defense.  But would they then be vulnerable to legal action from other men, because they haven't raped any men?
Lawyers of the world, rejoice!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Private Education in Action

From the Orange County Register:

James Tooley used to believe the way to eradicate illiteracy and improve education was to make free public schools available to everyone.  Then he ventured into the slums of India.

On a national holiday he took an autorickshaw into the Old City – the slums – of Hyderabad, India. As he shocked his driver with his determination to explore the slums, he discovered that "the stunning thing about the drive was that private schools had not thinned out as we went from the poshest parts of town to the poorest. Everywhere among the little stores and workshops, were private schools!"

So began his journey of discovery.

Tooley that first day encountered Fazalur Rahman Khurrum, head of a ramshackle establishment grandly named the Royal Grammar School and also head of an association catering to private schools serving the poor, with 500 members in Hyderabad alone. Over the next 10 days Tooley visited 50 schools and was impressed by the enthusiasm of students and teachers alike.

It turned out that even though government schools were set up throughout the city, many poor parents had a low opinion of them and scraped together the 60-100 rupees a month ($1.33-$2.22 at exchange rates then) to send their children to private schools. And while many of these schools were begun by people with a special feeling for poor people and a desire to help them, almost none were charities (though all accepted for free or at reduced rates orphans and others who couldn't afford the regular fees) but had to make a profit to survive.

The experts told him the private schools were "businessmen ripping off the poor", that they are a "passing fad", and run by "unscrupulous people who cared only about profit".  I'm surprised there was no mention of "cherry-picking students".

Some of the experts were even aware of shortcomings in public schools. One report on four provinces in India noted that unannounced visits found "teaching activity" was occurring in only half of the government schools, and in a third of them the principal wasn't even around. Reports abounded of teachers sleeping during class time, showing up drunk or not showing up at all. This report even noted some valid reasons parents might prefer private schools:

"In a private school, the teachers are accountable to the manager (who can fire them), and, through him or her, to the parents (who can withdraw their children). In a government school, the chain of accountability is much weaker, as teachers have a permanent job with salaries and promotions unrelated to performance. This contrast is perceived with crystal clarity by the vast majority of parents."

Yet such observations never made it into the executive summaries of such reports.

Undeterred, Tooley took time from his official job – investigating schools for the privileged in every country he visited – to get into the slums to see what the poor were doing for themselves. In Ghana, Somaliland and Goa, he found similar developments: poor parents were sacrificing to send their children to private schools.

Finally, at a conference where he presented his findings, Tooley met Chuck Harper, senior vice president of the John Templeton Foundation, which was interested in "free-market solutions to poverty." He got a grant from the Templeton Foundation and began a research project to explore private schools for the poor and how they stacked up to government schools in quality of education.

Thus he assembled teams of researchers in India, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and elsewhere. In Nigeria he had to negotiate open sewers, mud and narrow alleyways, but he found a thriving community of private schools in the slums of Makoko in Lagos. He found private schools in tiny fishing villages in Ghana, and even in the far reaches of rural China, after officials confidently informed him that there were no private schools for the poor anywhere in that communist bastion.

On one occasion in Ghana, Tooley became impatient with a school proprietor who kept him waiting 20 minutes while she talked to "a very thin, unkempt older man." When he got up to tell her that he was upset by her rudeness and was ready to leave, she simply said, "I'm sorry, but this is a parent." She knew who was important in her world. International experts could wait.

In general, public schools outperformed private schools in one of 14 criteria -- playgrounds.  They were worse than private ones in any number of measures, including drinking water, chalkboards, desks, proper buildings, etc. 

Oh, yes. In results, too.

Tooley's teams tested students in government and private schools and found that when it came to educational attainments the students in private schools outperformed counterparts in government schools dramatically. "The results from Delhi were typical. In mathematics, mean scores of children in government schools were 24.5 percent, whereas they were 42.1 percent in private unrecognized schools and 43.9 percent in private recognized. ... In English, the performance difference was much greater (children in unrecognized schools enjoyed a 35 percentage-point advantage over their public school counterparts, whereas children in recognized schools scored 41 percentage points more)." Private-school students even outperformed public school students in Hindi, though English was usually the medium of instruction.

Tooley's teams found similar results in Nigeria and Ghana (statistical details at And the government schools had far greater resources to work with – in some areas public school teachers were paid seven times what private school teachers were, and international aid agencies, both governmental and private, give money only to government schools.

And the end of the story:

There's a happy ending. In 2006 Tooley won a competition on private-sector development sponsored by the Financial Times. After presenting a paper in Singapore and having it reprinted in the Financial Times, he listened to a message on his answering machine from Richard Chandler, a New Zealander who founded Orient Global, a private investment company. "Professor Tooley," he said, "I've read your article in the Financial Times … well, I'm your investor."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Ill-Conceived Health-Care Ranking -

The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal looks at the story behind the US Health Care system's 37th place ranking in An Ill-Conceived Health-Care Ranking -

Few people who cite the ranking are aware that some public-health officials were skeptical of the report from the outset. The ranking was faulted because it judges health-care systems for problems -- cultural, behavioral, economic -- that aren't controlled by health care.

"It's a very notorious ranking," says Mark Pearson, head of health for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the 30-member, Paris-based organization of the world's largest economies. "Health analysts don't like to talk about it in polite company. It's one of those things that we wish would go away."

So what's wrong with it?

The WHO ranking was ambitious in its scope, grading each nation's health care on five factors. Two of these were relatively uncontroversial: health level, which is roughly the average healthy lifespan of a nation's residents; and responsiveness, which is a sort of customer-service rating encompassing factors such as the system's speed, choice and quality of amenities. The other three measure inequality in health-care outcomes; responsiveness; and individual spending.

These last three measures struck some analysts as problematic, because a country with unhealthy people could rank above a healthier one where there was a bigger gap between healthy and unhealthy people. It is certainly possible that spreading health care as evenly as possible makes a society healthier, but the rankings struck some health-care researchers as assuming that, rather than demonstrating it.

An even bigger problem was shared by all five of these factors: The underlying data about each nation generally weren't available. So WHO researchers calculated the relationship between those factors and other, available numbers, such as literacy rates and income inequality. Such measures, they argued, were linked closely to health in those countries where fuller health data were available. Even though there was no way to be sure that link held in other countries, they used these literacy and income data to estimate health performance.

Philip Musgrove, the editor-in-chief of the WHO report that accompanied the rankings, calls the figures that resulted from this step "so many made-up numbers," and the result a "nonsense ranking." Dr. Musgrove, an economist who is now deputy editor of the journal Health Affairs, says he was hired to edit the report's text but didn't fully understand the methodology until after the report was released. After he left the WHO, he wrote an article in 2003 for the medical journal Lancet criticizing the rankings as "meaningless."

X marks the parking ticket

One vanity plate to avoid:
For Huntsville resident Scottie Roberson, the letter X -- seven of them, to be exact -- led to more than $19,000 in Birmingham parking tickets.

Roberson said he has been to Birmingham only once in the past five years and left without a ticket. He said city officials told him the tickets were issued by mistake because of his vanity plate -- XXXXXXX.

Roberson, 38, said the plate is an homage to his days of building custom cars, when he was given the nickname "Racer X." He uses seven X's, he said, because seven is his favorite number.

When Birmingham parking patrols find cars without license plates parked illegally or at expired meters, they enter seven X's in place of the plate number, city officials said. The parking citation form calls for a plate number, and the practice is to use X's when no number is available.

About a year ago, Roberson began receiving letters stating he had outstanding parking tickets, sometimes as many as 10 in one day in 10 places, he said.

On the other hand, this flood of tickets also establishes reasonable doubt should he ever get a real parking ticket.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

JustOneMinute: Minority Report

It seems three members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee objected to awarding the prize to President Obama. JustOneMinute: Minority Report

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OK, what about calling me susie?

The Numbers Guy looks at some of the latest "spanking new" research on corporal punishment. Spanking Research Needs a Time Out -

Statistical analysis of spanking's effects on cognition are clouded by many complicating factors. Effects can be attributed to the wrong cause, statisticians say; rather than spanking causing problems in children, it is possible that their existing cognitive problems can make spanking more likely. Moreover, any effects of spanking are difficult to measure and probably small. And unlike, say, a study on prescription drugs that removes a misleading placebo effect, no ethical study can assign some children to be spanked. Instead, parents must be trusted to remember and share their disciplinary practices.
Daniel Mundfrom, a statistician at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, says that even without accounting for other factors, spanking at age 1 explained less than 1% of the variation in cognitive ability at age 3. In other words, maybe spanking does lower intelligence, but not by much.
Martin Wells, a statistician at Cornell University, re-ran the statistical test to check whether regional variations in IQ -- which is lower in Latin America and Africa -- could account for the IQ differences Prof. Straus found. After accounting for regional variations, Dr. Wells found the effect of spanking vanished. Dr. Wells plans to use the Prof. Straus's research in the classroom to demonstrate why it is important to consider alternative explanations.

More on Civility

I missed this ridiculous A-1 encapsulation of the media's summer of hand-wringing on Sunday, but it's worth reading for a crystal-clear look at the world view within major media. The opening anecdote for "In Today's Viral World, Who Keeps a Civil Tongue?," is telling. Let's hear about the horrors:

Late last month, Charisse Carney-Nunes fired up the computer at her home in Northeast Washington to check her e-mail. Her brain already was on morning drive time: breakfast for the kids, her day's work at a government agency. She glanced down at her screen, then froze.

"Ms. Carney-Nunes," began the e-mail from Michelle Malkin, a best-selling and often inflammatory conservative writer with a heavily trafficked Web site. "I understand that you uploaded the video of schoolchildren reciting a Barack Obama song/rap at Bernice Young elementary school in June. I have a few quick questions. Did you help write the song/rap and teach it to the children? Are you an educator/guest lecturer at the school? Did you teach about your book, 'I am Barack Obama' at the school? Your bio says you are a schoolmate of Obama. How well-acquainted are you with the president?"

She glanced down at her screen, then froze. Because she got a perfectly reasonable e-mail from Michelle Malkin inquiring about how she came to upload the Obama hymn performed by New Jersey schoolkids to her YouTube channel, you see. It's the stuff low-budget horror movies are made of. A spunky career woman arrives at her tastefully decorated condo after a long day at work only to find her e-mail inbox assaulted by polite inquiries from a (gasp!) conservative! Cue the "Psycho" soundtrack.

Really? This is the incivility the Washington Post wants to address in the lede? Moving on, we find the increasingly horrific fall-out over the video Carney-Nunes posted to her YouTube account:

Carney-Nunes looked at the time stamp -- 6:47 a.m. -- and closed the file without replying. She knew Malkin had driven criticism of President Obama's back-to-school speech, streamed nationwide, as an attempt to indoctrinate students. Now Malkin was asking about a YouTube video of New Jersey public school children singing and enthusiastically chanting about Obama from a Black History Month presentation.

By nightfall, Carney-Nunes's name was playing on Fox News and voice mails on her home phone and cellphone were clogged with the furious voices of strangers.

Gee, you know what would have helped clarify the situation? Replying politely to the polite e-mail from Malkin instead of complaining to the Washington Post after the fact. Malkin had accurately linked Carney-Nunes to the video because it had been uploaded to her YouTube account. Had Carney-Nunes wanted to distance herself from it at the time, by clarifying that an "associate" uploaded it or explaining that she hadn't written the song or directed the kids, Malkin had invited her to do so. The woman whose mission it is to help children "find their inner Obama" was shocked that people assumed she was complicit in the sing-a-long when she had uploaded it and made no attempt to clarify her connection to it, even when asked to do so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How do we handle a problem like this one?

This is a problem that was raised by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times.

Mr. Waddington has polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, a genetic disorder that leads to kidney failure. First he lost one kidney, and then the other…. Doctors explained that the best match — the one least likely to be rejected — would perhaps come from Travis or Michael, his two sons, then ages 29 and 27.

Travis and Michael each had a 50 percent chance of inheriting PKD. And if pre-donation testing revealed that one of them had the disorder, that brother might never be able to get health insurance. As a result, their doctors had advised not getting tested…. “At the time David needed a transplant, the people closest to him couldn’t even offer a lifesaving donation — for insurance reasons,” said Mr. Waddington’s wife, Susan.

John Goodman at NCPA blogged this, saying:

I’d love to know what the opponents of health reform think families like this should do.

Incivility on whose part?

The Washington Post has published a piece claiming that conservatives are the uncivil ones. Gateway Pundit looks at the issue.

The DNC would have a hard time topping this awful piece of propaganda.

Michelle Malkin, who was mentioned in the article, rips apart this horribly biased piece of fiction.

If the WaPo really wanted to understand incivility on the internet this may help. Liberals are more than 18 times more likely to use foul language on their blogs.

The News Buckit performed a study on foul language on the internet. This is what was uncovered:
So how much more does the Left use Carlin's "seven words" versus the Right? According to my calculations, try somewhere in the range of 18-to-1.
And, this doesn't even include the disgusting attacks on Christians, Jews and the military that you often find gracing the pages of the liberal blogs.

Why people laugh at creationists

Granted, there is only one creationist being laughed at here, but it's a start.

Vitamin C and Evolution

Humans and a number of apes cannot synthesize vitamin C. Most other mammals can. Is this lack in the apes and humans only coincidence?

You tube clips on evolution

(Hat tip: Panda's Thumb)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Outrageous Order of Judge Vaughn Walker

The Outrageous Order of Judge Vaughn Walker
Judge Vaughn Walker, after ordering a trial which neither party requested, is now ordering only one side – the pro-marriage forces, to turn over confidential campaign communications.

This is outrageous. Prop 8 was not passed by the five or six men who form the Protect Marriage Committee. It was passed by the votes of millions of Californians. Confidential campaign communications cannot, by definition, be relevant to their personal motivations in voting for Prop 8.

This is judicial harassment, plain and simple. It means that millions of Californians who expressed opinions to the Prop 8 campaign may now be exposed to the tactics of intimidation that have taken place against donors. It means that campaign strategy may be judicially revealed a few months before 2010, the year gay-marriage advocates have pledged to repeal Prop 8.

This is not an even playing field. It is one-sided in the extreme. The private, confidential intentions of the proposers could not have had any influence on the voters – and so are irrelevant.

How much respect will gay-marriage advocates show to the ordinary civil rights of Americans who disagree with them? So far, the answer is: not much. Not much, that is, short of eschewing open espousals of violence, and pooh-poohing the level of violence that has already taken place.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Terrorism Awareness Project

Terrorism Awareness Project

The Weekend Interview with John Mackey: The Conscience of a Capitalist -

The Weekend Interview with John Mackey: The Conscience of a Capitalist -
"I honestly don't know why the article became such a lightning rod," says John Mackey, CEO and founder of Whole Foods Market Inc., as he tries to explain the firestorm caused by his August op-ed on these pages opposing government-run health care. "I think a lot of people who got angry haven't read what I actually wrote. There was a lot of emotional reaction—fear and anger. I just wanted to get people to think about whether there was a better way to reform the system."

Well, I compared the version of his piece in the Journal with the version on his blog, and the material deleted really doesn't make that much of a difference. Certainly, not as far as opinions on health care are concerned. (The material that was edited out was more of an ad for the kinds of organic food he sells.)

Here, he discusses his philosophy in a number of areas.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Green Antinomianism?

Buying green can be license for bad behaviour, study finds

Toronto, October 6, 2009 –Those lyin', cheatin' green consumers.

Just being around green products can make us behave more altruistically, a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science has found.

But buying those same products can have the opposite effect. Researchers found that buying green can lead people into less altruistic behaviour, and even make them more likely to steal and lie than after buying conventional products. Buying products that claim to be made with low environmental impact can set up "moral credentials" in people's minds that give license to selfish or questionable behavior.

"This was not done to point the finger at consumers who buy green products. The message is bigger," says Nina Mazar, a marketing professor at University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and a self-admitted green consumer. "At the end of the day, if we do one moral thing, IT doesn't necessarily mean we will be morally better in other things as well."

Mazar, along with her co-author Chen-Bo Zhong, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at the Rotman School, conducted three experiments. The first found that people perceived green consumers to be more cooperative, altruistic and ethical than those who purchased conventional products. The second experiment showed that participants merely exposed to products from a green store shared more money in a subsequent experimental game, but those who actually made purchases in that store shared less. The final experiment revealed that participants who bought items in the green store showed evidence of lying and stealing money in a subsequent lab game.

But are people conscious of this moral green washing going on when they buy green products and, more importantly, the license they might feel to break ethical standards? Professors Mazar and Zhong don't know – and look forward to exploring that in further research.

The complete study is available at: .

For the latest thinking on business, management and economics from the Rotman School of Management, visit .

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is redesigning business education for the 21st century with a curriculum based on Integrative Thinking. Located in the world's most diverse city, the Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables the design of creative business solutions. The School is currently raising $200 million to ensure Canada has the world-class business school it deserves. For more information, visit

Thursday, October 08, 2009

ObamaCare: A FAIL from sea to shining sea

This from the other Karl at Patterico's Pontifications...

ObamaCare: A FAIL from sea to shining sea

[Posted by Karl]

The story of large-scale government takeovers of healthcare in America is the story of consistent failure.

Don't take my word for it. Take the word of ObamaCare cheerleader Ezra Klein, who wrote in 2007 about how state attempts at government-controlled health care failed time and again — in Washington state, Hawaii, Tennessee and Oregon (I have added links for more detailed looks at some of these failures). While differing in the details, the stories shared common elements — skyrocketing premiums, driving out private insurers, "unexpected" floods of people into the public system, and ultimately rationing and benefit cuts.

Klein missed similar tales from Maine (x2), South Dakota and Kentucky, where mandates drove almost all insurers out of their respective states (something to remember when liberals complain about the lack of competition in health insurance markets).

Klein also missed the failure of insurance exchanges in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and California. Cappy McGarr, the chairman of the Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance from 1993-95, writes:

If Congress now creates new exchanges, as seems increasingly likely, it must prevent this phenomenon by setting two national rules: Insurers have to accept everyone and have to charge everyone the same rates regardless of health status.

Such rules would force insurers to spread risk. But enforcement would also be difficult. Every aspect of health insurance — from the rules for underwriting and setting premiums to the marketing of policies — would need to be monitored stringently to prevent companies from steering all bad risks to the exchanges. (Emphasis added.)

Requiring insurers to accept everyone ("guaranteed issue") and charge the same rates ("community rating") will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket, perhaps double. For all of the Democratic rhetoric about how ObamaCare will promote choice, it is clear that the point of the exchanges is to reduce choice. Jon Kingsdale, who runs the Massachusetts exchange, is more honest about the need for the exchanges to reduce choice.

Speaking of Massachusetts, Klein's 2007 piece was excited about the then-new government takeover there, but noted that the state might be a special case because it had one of the lowest uninsured populations in the country, a wealthier-than-average population, and a pre-existing tax to fund it. Those exceptional factors would seem to make it a bad model for ObamaCare, even it if worked — but of course, it does not work as advertised. In 2009, we discover a program ripped by everyone from the CATO Institute to the left-wing Institute for America's Future. Average health care premiums in the state are rising faster than the national average, people are choosing to pay the fines instead, wait times for care are rising, and even 13% of the insured have to forego care because it is so expensive. As in Oregon, the government is already headed toward rationing care. Yet analysts agree that the proposals now crawling through Congress are close to those already increasing costs and decreasing quality care in the Bay State.

The liberal response to this record of failure has been to claim that it shows that the government takeover of healthcare must be national in scope — a "no exit" approach that again flies in the face of Democratic claims about preserving choice and competition. The fact that Medicare and Medicaid are in sad financial straits themselves bothers them no more than the failure of all their other healthcare efforts.

Stranger still, the politicians considering voting for ObamaCare miss some of the obvious political lessons to be drawn from these failures. For example, in Washington state, following a citizen's revolt, control of the state House switched from 65 Democrats and 33 Republicans to 61 Republicans and 37 Democrats, and Democrats were reduced to a one seat margin in the state Senate. Democrats from Washington state also lost the most seats in the US Congress in 1994, including House Speaker Tom Foley. In Tennessee, a tax revolt over funding TennCare ended at least 16 years of GOP control of the governorship. Previously, when Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988, a citizen's revolt forced Congress to repeal the law by huge margins before it went into effect.

The old saying defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result, comes readily to mind.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Anchoress on Obama

Years ago, I was talking with a woman who had divorced her husband. She said that when she married him, he seemed to be just what she was looking for in a husband.  Later, it turned out he was a non-entity, an empty suit onto which she could project her fantasies, and he would do nothing that would disturb the image.

Throughout the election, it became increasingly apparent to me that Obama was the same sort of figure.  He spoke of hope and change, and did nothing to disrupt the fantasy visions people were so happy to project onto him.

Now, in this piece by the Anchoress, it seems he's now in a place where he has to manifest some substance.

I get the impression that President Obama would like very much to say to those Americans and traditional allies who are not falling for him, "Do you know who I am?"

I wish he would, because the response would be: "Do you know who you are?"

This piece by Robin of Berkeley, which includes the Zen story, describes an America that is holding its collective breath, and wondering just who it actually elected back in November of 2008.

One senses that the nation is not alone in wondering, that perhaps President Obama himself has no clue who he is, not as an American man, and not as The American President. For decades Obama has gotten by on elegance, a retiring demeanor and the ability to make people see their reflections in him. The first two are gifts; that last is a symptom of a vast emptiness, for a mirror may have width, but not depth.

If Barack Obama, who has made a great secret of his past, truly understood who he is, and who The American President is on the world stage, he would never have journeyed to Copenhagen to have his hat handed to him.


Whether he meant to entertain or to rule like a monarch, Obama seems now petrified to actually lead. One senses that this unformed man is at war with himself; what to do – play to the handlers and their agenda, or cast them aside, grasp both sides of the podium, swallow hard, and play to history?

The Office of the Presidency can either make a man great, or break him, but it will not allow him to coast and remain undefined.

Gallup on health insurance programs

Many in U.S. See Health Insurance as Personal Responsibility

Majorities place responsibility on government when no alternative is presented

PRINCETON, NJ -- In a recent Gallup survey, 89% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 61% of Americans overall say Americans themselves -- rather than the government -- have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they have health insurance. Six in 10 Democrats say the government should be primarily responsible.

Health Insurance Views, by Party ID

Other national polls on this topic have found a higher degree of public support for government involvement in guaranteeing healthcare coverage, but those question wordings do not provide a non-governmental alternative.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Will Our Robot Overlords Be Friendly? - Reason Magazine

Ronald Bailey writes about the Singularity: Will Our Robot Overlords Be Friendly? - Reason Magazine

Co-founder of Paypal, venture capitalist, and supporter of the Singularity Institute, Peter Thiel began his talk on the economics of the singularity by asking the audience to vote on which of seven scenarios they are most worried about. (See Reason's interview with Thiel here.) The totals below are my estimates from watching the audience as they raised their hands:

A. Singularity happens and robots kill us all, the Skynet scenario, (5 percent)
B. Biotech terrorism using something more virulent than smallpox and Ebola combined (30 percent)
C. Nanotech grey goo escapes and eats up all organic matter (5 percent)
D. Israel and Iran engage thermonuclear war that goes global (25 percent)
E. A one-world totalitarian state arises (10 percent)
F. Runaway global warming (5 percent)
G. The singularity takes too long to happen (30 percent)

"Too long"? How long is that?

...without rapid technological progress, economic growth in already developed countries like the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan is not going be enough to address looming needs. Without fast economic growth producing more wealth, Americans might be driven to saving 40 percent of their incomes and retiring at age 80.

Guns don't make people safer?

That's what a new study seems to say.  A piece at Reason magazine's blog commenting on it is titled, Why Skydivers Would Be Better Off Without Parachutes
Eugene Volokh also critiques the study.
Essentially, the point the study fails to account for is that people who own guns may simply be in more dangerous situations. They may still be less likely to be killed than they would be if they didn't have access to guns, but still have a higher death rate than people who live in much safer situations.
I'll quote from Eugene's piece:

Let me illustrate this with a deliberately oversimplified model. Let's begin by assuming a total population of 100,000, that's divided into two groups, a 10% high-risk group and a 90% low-risk group. Let's say that the high-risk group has a 60% risk of being attacked, and as a result 40% of its members carry guns. And let's say that the low-risk group has a 5% risk of being attacked, and as a result 3% of its members carry guns. Let's also imagine a total population of 100,000 (just to make the numbers easier), and let's assume that possessing a gun has a modest protective effect for both groups — it reduces the risk of being injured when attacked from 75% to 60%.

Here's what this turns out yielding, with "A" meaning "armed subgroup" and "U" meaning the unarmed subgroup.

Group Number of people in group Probability of being attacked Armed subgroup fraction Armed subgroup number Armed subgroup injury risk Armed subgroup number injured Unarmed subgroup number Unarmed subgroup injury risk Unarmed subgroup number injured
High-risk 10000 0.6 0.4 4000 0.36 1440 6000 0.45 2700
Low-risk 90000 0.05 0.03 2700 0.03 81 87300 0.0375 3273.75
Total 100000 0.067 6700 0.227015 1521 93300 0.064027 5973.75
Odds 0.293686 0.068407

The result: The armed subgroup has 3.5 the risk of injury compared to the unarmed subgroup, and the relative odds ratio between them is 4.29. And this is so even though in the model gun possession decreases the injury risk for both the high- and the low-risk group.

Naturally, this is just a model; the real numbers are likely very different from the ones I give here, and in fact no-one knows what the real numbers are.

Indeed, this is the same sort of problem we get with drug testing, and any number of other statistical tests. 

How much does health care cost?

John Lott has some numbers...

A number frequently tossed around is that a 1/6th of our nation's income is spent on health care. That number comes from $2.2 trillion in reported health care spending out of an almost $14 trillion economy. The President cites those statistics as evidence that the government needs to step in and keep health care spending under control. Yet, there are problems with both claims: The health care costs used in the debate have been inflated by double counting and further distorted by price controls, and the recent growth in U.S. health care expenditures has actually been less than in countries where the government pays for most health care.

First, take the double counting. The $2.2 trillion number includes not only the direct spending by insurance companies, individuals, and the government on health care, but it also includes the spending on buildings and medical equipment for doctors and hospitals. As should be obvious, you can't count both the money paid by patients for using an MRI and then also count the money that the hospital pays for the MRI. After all, payments for MRI scans typically cover the costs for purchasing the machinery.


There are also accounting problems with the money spent on research. The total health care cost figure includes the entire National Institute of Health budget and a large percentage of the National Science Foundation. But much of this money has nothing to do with health research and some is recouped through the products the research creates.


This double counting adds up -- about $363 billion. Rather than about 1/6th of GDP, or about 16 percent, going to health care expenditures, the right number is closer to an 1/8th, about 13 percent of GDP. Suddenly the gap with other countries doesn't seem as large. Take France, which spends about 11 percent of its GDP on health care.


But beyond the level of costs and how quickly they are increasing, there is another larger question: why should we really care? As we get wealthier, why should Americans avoid spending more on bigger houses or nicer cars or better health care? Why not be happy that we can now afford hip replacements in old age and diagnose cancer earlier? During many recent years Americans have spent even more money on housing than on health care, but, by itself, that doesn't show that too much money is spent on housing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Die Quickly

That's what Democrats call "being civil", I guess. War of Words Over Health Care Cools -

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) sparked the uproar Tuesday night, saying on the House floor of the minority's health-care proposals: "Republicans want you to die quickly."

GOP leaders immediately demanded an apology. They likened his remarks to Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouting "You lie!" during President Obama's September address to a joint session of Congress.

Grayson not only refused to apologize, but he also further drew the GOP's ire by calling the deaths of uninsured Americans a "holocaust" and then by referring to Republicans as "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." (He later allowed that "holocaust" wasn't "the best choice of words.")

More here

And let's see if the embed code works here...

To restructure one-sixth of the economy...

That's what the Democrats are trying to do, according to the New York Times.Health Overhaul Is Drawing Close to Floor Debate - (Until they sanitize this article, that is.)

The policy challenges are also daunting. In the space of one year, the Democrats are trying to restructure one-sixth of the economy, writing a bill that will affect almost every American, every business and every doctor and hospital in the country.
Democrats said that once the Finance Committee acts this week, they will be closer than ever to carrying out a major overhaul of the health care system — a goal that has eluded presidents and Congress for more than a half-century.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Weasel Zippers: SCRUBBED: NY Times Scrubs Their Olympic FAIL Article - No Mention Of Barack Odogma's And Rahm's Quotes...Scrub Fact That Cabinet Members And Senator Dick Durbin Flew With BO . . .

The Memory Hole strikes again. Weasel Zippers: SCRUBBED: NY Times Scrubs Their Olympic FAIL Article - No Mention Of Barack Odogma's And Rahm's Quotes...Scrub Fact That Cabinet Members And Senator Dick Durbin Flew With BO . . .

After posting an excerpt from a NY Times article, he calls attention to some modifications.

Now there is no mention of BO's 'end of second term' quote or Rahm's 'good seats' quote. There is no mention of Cabinet Members or Dick Durban flying over with BO. There is mention however, of the McChrystal meeting (as Rush said there would be)...
Shared via AddThis

Roman Polanski

Brian Micklethwait in London has posted on Samizdata about how the Internet has made a world of difference in the case of Roman Polanski.

It's no secret. No secret at all. Every second or third blog I read has stuff about it. Film Director Roman Polanksi (Repulsion, The Pianist) did something bad of a rape-like nature to a teenage girl several decades ago, and lived in Europe from then on.

But now they are going to extradite him or not as the case may be, from France or Switzerland (somewhere European), and big cheese lists of Hollywood big cheeses are saying he's a great artist and therefore regular morals and laws and suchlike don't apply to him, ease up, forget about it, freedom of artistic expression, it wasn't really rape ("rape-rape" as Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, Girl, Interrupted, Rat Race) has famously put it), it was her fault, it was her mother's fault, it was the judge's fault, blah blah, and the rest of us are saying: bullshit you evil bastards.

If you care about the details you now know them. I care about the details, a bit, and I too am of the bullshit you evil bastards tendency. Not my point here. No, what interests me about this ruckus is how the internet has so completely changed the rules of such debates, and so completely wrong-footed the big cheese evil bastard team.
The internet has changed all that. What the internet supplies is a vastly higher class of gossip. Before the internet, finding a piece which listed what you considered to be all the pertinent facts of a complicated, foreign and creepy matter such as this one could take weeks, and the chances were that if you really, really wanted a piece like that, you'd have to write it yourself, and risk being branded a creep yourself. Which would anyway probably never be read by anybody in significant numbers. Too creepy. Now, a few links, and you have all the facts you want.

Facts like: she was thirteen, rather than sixteen or seventeen. Facts like: he drugged her. Facts like: She said no!! Several times!!!! In every respect short of the use of a chair leg or crowbar and there being blood all over the place alongside all the other rape-fluids, this was most definitely rape-rape, and we all now know it.
Who the hell knows what should have been done about all those damned collapsing banks? Who's fault was that? What does that all mean? Not even the internet can sort that out for you in half an hour. But it can sure as hell tell you in fifteen minutes what bloody Roman bloody Polanski did to that poor girl, and admitted to doing to that poor girl, and how old she was, and how she said no no no no no, and it can tell you that it was wrong, and that he should be punished, and that how long it takes to catch him and how good or crappy The Pianist was are absolutely not the issues, and that if Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence, Shine a Light) thinks otherwise then Martin Scorsese, fine film maker though he may well be, is a piece of shit who deserves to have his moral compass wrapped around his neck.


Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, offers the EMPOWER PATIENTS FIRST ACT: ANOTHER SERIOUS CONSERVATIVE HEALTH PLAN

Price's "Empower Patients First Act," would:
  • Fix the unfairness in the tax treatment of health insurance by extending a tax credit or deduction to those without employer-sponsored insurance;
  • Use automatic enrollment, with a right to "opt out" of health insurance coverage, and promote defined-contributions for employer plans, instead of using government coercion and mandates, to expand coverage;
  • Establish health plan portals in the states so that patients can own and control their own health insurance;
  • Offer low-income Americans the option of a voucher to purchase private coverage; and
  • Give states incentives to experiment with how best to cover high cost individuals.
For months President Obama has suggested that on health reform the choice is between the Democrats plans before Congress or the status quo. Congressional conservatives, like Rep. Price, have offered serious legislative proposals that include practical health care solutions. It's time for official Washington to stop demonizing its critics and ordinary citizens who are opposed to its health care agenda. It's time for the President and the Congressional leadership to get serious and to listen.

The Voyage of the Beagle

What if Darwin had blogged his voyage?The Voyage of the Beagle

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Campaign Spot on National Review Online

Comment from a reader:Campaign Spot on National Review Online

There's actually something worrisome about this whole Chicago fiasco, and it goes back to President Obama's inexperience. Diplomacy 101 tells us that your head of state only shows up on the high-profile stage when a deal is complete. The lesson that most politicians learn well before they gain positions of power is that diplomacy is done by diplomats, professionals who work through all the negotiations and the hardball tactics and the carrot/stick combinations. The principals in the matter gather to discuss high-level topics and to smile for the cameras as the agreement is being signed. Heads of state do not conduct diplomacy, they ratify it, and surprises are entirely unwelcome at those summits and signing events (hence Reagan's anger in Iceland.)

Why were you and Ramesh surprised? Because you thought that President Obama at least knew this very basic lesson. Today's announcement suggests that he does not, and it just got advertised big-time to countries who already were pretty sure we had a rookie at the helm who didn't know how to use international power. President Obama just got upstaged by an organization against whom no retaliation is acceptable, and he wants to meet with the Iranians next month? We are in deep, deep trouble.

ACORN's Prophetic Lawyer

Matthew Vadum writes on ACORN's Prophetic Lawyer.

ACORN's lawyer warned ACORN 15 months ago to begin fixing its massive internal problems or face certain catastrophe. ACORN didn't listen. It let the problems fester.

The advice from Elizabeth Kingsley of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg Eisenberg LLP came in the form of an eerily prophetic legal memo to ACORN dated June 19, 2008, the day before ACORN's national board fired disgraced founder Wade Rathke.

The memo is a kind of Holy Grail for ACORN researchers. One source of mine keeps a copy in a safety deposit box. I've lost track of how many people have asked me over the last year if I knew how to get a hold of it. One source told me yesterday that there are many people who would "kill" to gain possession of it. This is a bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but not much.

The memo itself is posted at Big Hollywood.

Obama made the sports page!

They didn't have much good to say about it. For Obama, an Unsuccessful Campaign -

Although Chicago might have lost to Rio de Janeiro for reasons that had little to do with Mr. Obama, the fact that he made himself the face of its bid invariably meant that its defeat would be taken as a stinging rejection of its favorite son.

Changing Climate Change

Back in 1974, the news outlets were fretting over the beginning of a new ice age. Science: Another Ice Age? - TIME

...Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data.

At least then, they weren't declaring, "The debate is over."

Brutal Calculus, Part One: What Price Freedom? (Wizbang)

Jay Tea looks at some Brutal Calculus, Part One: What Price Freedom? (Wizbang)

Last week, Hamas -- the terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip -- released a video of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier they kidnapped three years ago. They did this in return for the release of 20 Palestinian prisoners.

They say that they will release Shalit if Israel will release 1,000 more prisoners -- many of whom are convicted in helping to kill Israelis.

This sets up a simple economic formula: One video of an Israeli is worth the freedom of 20 Palestinians. The life of one Israeli is worth 1,000 Palestinians.

So, by that logic, for every Israeli killed, Israel should kill 1,000 Palestinians.

That sound ugly and inhumane? I agree. But that's the exchange rate Hamas has set.

And while the precise rate has fluctuated, it has always been that Israelis are worth far, far more than Palestinians -- even dead Israelis. A few years ago, Hezbollah traded Israeli corpses for live Palestinians.

So when terrorist apologists accuse you of putting more value on the lives of Israelis over Palestinians, just shrug and point out that the Palestinians themselves have been saying just that for years.

I wonder what those who yell at Israel over its "disproportionate" response would say to that logic?

Friday, October 02, 2009


BLACK REPUBLICAN: National Black Republican Association E-News: Be Civil?
It's a sure sign that Republicans are winning a debate on issues when Democrats, aided by well-meaning civility police pundits and activists, demand that Republicans stop showing their passion and "be civil".

I am still waiting for those with such a keen sense of civility to demand that Democrats cease their unrelenting and uncivil, even racist, attacks on black Republicans. I won't hold my breath.

Chill Out ? An economic triage for global climate change

Skeptic Michael Shermer offers his questions for people to chew over at Skepticblog » Chill Out ? An economic triage for global climate change.

Are you a global warming skeptic, or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics? Your answer depends on how you answer these five questions:
  1. Is the earth getting warmer?
  2. Is the cause of global warming human activity?
  3. How much warmer is it going to get?
  4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate?
  5. How much should we invest in altering the climate?

His answers are "yes" for the first two, but the error bars get increasingly wide for answers 3-5. In the end...

In my opinion we need to chill out on all extremist plans that entail expenses best described as Brobdingnagian, require our intervention into developing countries best portrayed as imperialistic, or involve state controls best portrayed as fascistic. Give green technologies and free markets a chance.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fossils Shed New Light on Human Origins -

Fossils Shed New Light on Human Origins -
An international research team led by paleoanthropologist Tim White at the University of California, Berkeley, unveiled remains from 36 males, females and young of an ancient prehuman species called Ardipithecus ramidus, unearthed in the Awash region of Ethiopia since 1994. The creatures take their scientific name from the word for root in the local Afar language. They are not the oldest known homind fossils but they comprise the most complete set discovered so far.

"It is not a chimp and it is not human," said Dr. White. "It gives us a new perspective on our origins. We opened a time capsule from a time and place that we knew nothing about."

Although the differences between humans, apes and chimps today are legion, all shared a common ancestor six million years or so ago. These fossils suggest that creature--still undiscovered--resembled a chimp much less than researchers have always believed.

In fact, so many traits in chimps and apes today are missing in these early hominids that researchers now question the notion that modern chimps and apes embody vestiges of humanity's primate past, retaining primitive traits once shared by human ancestors. "We all thought the ancestral animal would look more like a chimp," explained Yale University anthropologist Andrew Hill.

Instead, the new finds show that what seems most ancient about nonhuman primates today--such as canine fangs, long limbs with hooked fingers meant for swinging through trees and hands designed for knuckle-walking--may actually be the product of more recent development, the researchers said. In that sense, the human hand today actually may be the more primitive appendage, they said.

"It is the chimps and gorillas that have been evolving like crazy in terms of limbs and locomotion, not hominids," said Kent State University anthropologist Owen Lovejoy, a senior scientist on the research team. "We took a different tack. We went social."